What Causes Dark Circles Under the Eyes
What Causes Dark Circles Under the Eyes

Recently, while reading through all of your Youtube and IG comments, I noticed one particular question come up time and time again, and this was: ‘what’s causing my dark circles, and how do I deal with them?’ 

This probably isn’t the answer you want to hear, but the reality is that dark circles along with puffiness and fine lines are inevitable as we grow older. And while we can’t turn back the clock and halt eye aging entirely, there are some remedies to help reduce the appearance of existing under-eye bags and dark circles.

 Common Causes of Dark Circles

 1. Pigmentation

Under-eye pigmentation can be caused by many different things. Genetic susceptibility is one factor, particularly amongst people with darker skin types. If your biological parents, grandparents, siblings, and other relatives have traits of under-eye pigmentation, then it’s likely that yours is hereditary. If this is the case, keep your family’s history in mind when seeking treatments to 1. manage expectations and 2. also prevent you from falling for product and procedure claims that are exaggerated and frankly just full of s**t. What a lot of people aren’t told is that genetically predisposed pigmentation is extremely hard to minimize, or reduce entirely. So try not to be so hard on yourself if you don’t get your desired results. 

Another instigator of under-eye pigmentation, and the most common, is the sun — this is another reason why a daily SPF is essential to help protect and prevent existing pigmentation from worsening. Tinted facial sunscreens are also an effective alternative — they’re kind of like a 2-in-1 package deal combining protection and a reflective tint that helps brighten the eye area. 

Other products and skincare steps that’ll aid sun-induced under-eye pigmentation:

  • Exfoliating with an AHA, like mandelic or lactic acid, as these are great for pigmentation and brightening. However, if you have really sensitive skin, then formulas with PHAs are better suited for you. But if the skin around your eyes can’t tolerate these acids, just avoid them entirely
  • An OTC or prescription-strength retinol is another great supplement to your SPF as retinol boosts collagen, minimizes vascular dark circles, and helps diminish pigmentation by increasing cellular turnover. Simply apply some under the eyes and seal it with Vaseline, or use Vaseline as a buffer and apply it to the area before your retinol to lessen irritation. 
  • Hydroquinone also causes slight irritation but works literal miracles for pigmentation.
  • And lastly, arbutin, licorice root extract, and niacinamide. Learn all about them here in my hyperpigmentation guide.


2. Shadowing and Vasculature

The second common cause of dark circles. 

As we age, the skin around our eyes naturally begins to thin, and as a result the blood vessels beneath become bigger and more prominent in appearance, causing ‘shadowing’ under the eyes. The treatment for this is therefore vastly different from pigmentation as in this case, you’ll require solutions that will help constrict blood vessels. Ingredients to look out for:

Caffeine does a good job of narrowing blood vessels temporarily. If you don’t have a caffeine eye cream in your stash, caffeinated green or black tea bags and ice-cold spoons are gold to depuff and constrict, especially when refrigerated overnight.

Topical vitamin K is another good one to help minimize hemosiderin deposition, which is the dark color caused when blood leaks out of fragile or broken blood vessels because of aging, and (shock, horror) FREQUENT RUBBING! So I beg, please break your habit of eye rubbing, STAT. You’ll honestly thank me later.

Shop all my favorite productions for under-eye pigmentation and shadowing below: